George Blyth: Postman and Photographer
Rural postman and photographer
The local amateur photographer GEORGE BLYTH (b. 27 May 1875) is informally known as the ‘postman photographer’. This is for good reason, having worked as a rural postman for around 43 years.
The 1891 census shows that, at age 15 years, George was working as a groom while living at Old Bewick. The 1893 Postal Service Appointment book records George as being appointed as a postman two years later in April 1893. He was assigned to the Wooperton Station to Ilderton postal route, with registration number 171920. George would, therefore, have been almost 18 years old.
According to Glen Aln (1945), George began working as a postman in 1892. He took over the postal route from William (Willie) Copeland from ‘Bewick’ who retired in 1892. This data, therefore, leads to a slight variance of one year for the date when George began his long career as a rural postman: 1892 or 1893.
Whichever start date is accurate, George subsequently worked as a postman for around 43 years. This long career is supported by an examination of the census records. In the 1901 census he is recorded as a postman for the first time, i.e., ‘Rural Postman (GPO)’: he was 25 years old. The intervening census records continue to list George’s occupation as a postman: 1911 ‘Postman (GPO)’, 1921 ‘Postman’.
Job of a rural postman
The ‘Dictionary of Occupational Terms’ based on the classification of occupations used in the 1921 Census (Ministry of Labour, 1927, p. 341) noted that, by 1921, the term ‘rural postman’ had become obsolete:
rural postman, a postman working in rural area; also carries stamps, etc., in pouch for sale on round; obsolescent.Ministry of Labour, 1927, p. 341
The term in common use was ‘postman’ or ‘postwoman’, i.e.
postman, postwoman; letter carrier (G.P.O); delivers letters and parcels to houses, offices, etc.; collects letters from pillar-boxes and conveys them to sorting office; frequently performs primary sorting of letters and parcels; faces up letters in street order; in rural and smaller urban areas, meets mail trains, and collects and despatches mail bags.Ministry of Labour, 1927, p. 341
Aln (1945) sets out the post round that George inherited from Willie Copeland:
- Start: Old Bewick Post Office
- New Bewick
- Roddam Rigg
- End: Ilderton
A post office was opened at Wooperton Station around the time that George started working as a postman. At some point during his working life, George was based there: the 1921 census records George’s place of work as ‘Wooperton P.O.’.
The 1939 Register lists George’s occupation as ‘Retired postman’ – he was living at Percy’s Cross Cottage and was 64 years old. This would concur with a retirement at age 60 years in 1935.
Imperial Service Medal
For his commendable service, George received the Imperial Service Medal from King George V on his retirement in 1935. The medal is presented to selected civil servants who complete at least 25 years meritorious service (Wikipedia: Imperial Service Medal). The London Gazette (1935, p. 4088) recorded the presentation as follows.
Whitehall, June 13, 1935
IMPERIAL SERVICE MEDAL
His Majesty The KING has been pleased to award the Imperial Service Medal to the following officers:-
Blyth, George, Postman, Wooperton Sub-Office, Alnwick.
[Credit: ‘The London Gazette’ is made available under the Open Government Licence v3.0]
- Aln, G. (1945) ‘People and Places of Northumberland’ Amble: Richard Logan.
- Ministry of Labour (1927) ‘A Dictionary of Occupational Terms’ London: HM Stationery Office. [WWW] https://archive.org/details/DictionaryOfOccupationalTerms/mode/2up Accessed 26 December 2020.
- The London Gazette (1935) ‘Imperial Service Medal’ Pub. 25 June 1935, Issue: 34174, Page: 4088 [WWW] https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34174/page/1 Accessed 26 December 2022.
[Revised: Graham Williamson 26 December 2022]